Istanbul & Beyond Champions Uncharted Turkish Delights

Stunning, slice-of-Turkish-life photos by David Hagerman and recipes from remote regions of Turkey, are the focus of Robyn Eckhardt’s latest cookbook, Istanbul & Beyond. The two spent 18 months digging deep into “one of the most gastronomically complex countries anywhere”, as Robyn so eloquently states it. The diverse terrains combined with interactions with neighboring countries has produced a richness that can only evolve through centuries of experimentation with local ingredients.

The breath of the book is expansive and no single recipe defines the cuisine. We found it best to follow our whims through the dense contents. The purple basil cooler is a great place to start with its anise back-notes and cool, sweet refreshment. Robyn tips us off to the fact that alcohol enhancement produces a wonderful cocktail.

Turkish red pepper paste and flakes can be found piled high at almost every market in Turkey.  The liberal use of this important element of Turkish cooking requires chefs to decide on a preferred flavor profile from deep and smokey to fruity spicy and every combination in between. Red pepper flakes elevate the Spicy Egg Salad on page 260 to a dish that complements every meal or snack served throughout the day.

Do not miss Robyn’s green olive salad with pomegranate molasses, a pomegranate reduction, which can be found in middle eastern stores. The recipe is from Hatay in southeastern Turkey, which was just honored by UNESCO for its exceptional cuisine, and after tasting this salad we know why.

Frangrant Orange Cookies from page 75 are just that, and so addicting we are actually afraid to make a batch for fear of not being able to stop at just a few.

Istanbul and Beyond delightfully champions hidden treasure dishes that have made Gaziantep and Antakya cities of noteworthy gastronomy according to the United Nations Creative Cities Network. You are unlikely to find these gems in your local Turkish restaurants. So thank you Robyn for sharing these recipes that we hope to have the good fortune of tasting in Turkey, but until then we’re covered.

The Turkish Temptress: Börek

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Strolling through the streets of Istanbul, it is impossible to miss the warm, buttery aroma and seductive window displays of börek shops strategically tucked into nooks and crannies all over the city. Börek are savory pastries fashioned from flour, water and salt doughs of varying thicknesses, resembling anything from thin filo sheets to thick egg noodles. These light, flakey pies can be found stuffed with meat, cheese, potato, herbs, mixed fillings or nothing at all. The fundamental focus is on the butter slathered layers formed into a myriad of shapes from squares, rounds, crescents, cigars, to whatever a baker can dream up.

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Börek may be boiled, baked, sautéed or fried and half the fun is sampling as many versions as possible to find a favorite.

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At Ça?da? Börek, on a corner across Taxim Square from Istiklal Caddesi, we sampled meat, cheese and potato börek, finding them all light, flakey and just the slightest touch greasy. Our favorites were the beef and potato, both packing a flavor punch of spices we wish the more mellow cheese bundles carried.

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The unfilled börek look like hot crossed buns,

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or big slabs that are cut into long slices with the help of a wooden measuring tool. Both are served with packets of powdered sugar.

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The protocol is to dip the unencumbered, warm layers into a mound of sweet, soft, sugar dust, turning each bite into a habit forming, melt in your mouth, fluff of Ottoman Empire culinary history.

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Börek are usually served for breakfast, but are available all day and late into the evening at a myriad of brightly lit shops all over Istanbul. Don’t hesitate to take the edge off your hunger with this savory or sweet snack regarded as one of the national treasures of Turkey.

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Ça?da? Börek Merkez-Tarlabasi Cd No. 20 A,Taksim-IST(0212) 237 67 41

Ça?da? Börek     Istasyon Cad. No. 7/B,   Yesilkoy/IST   (0212) 663 32 47

Ça?da? Börek     Sipahiglu Cad. No. 5/B   Yesilyurt/IST  (0212) 662 99 69

Ça?da? Börek     Cekmece Cad. No. 4/1     Florya/IST      (0212) 580 80 64

For börek in West Los Angeles try:

Aroma Cafe, 2530 Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-836-2919

The Power Of The Pomegranate

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Street vendors all over Istanbul soothe parched pedestrians with freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice. The orange is delightful, but it’s the red, juicy, ancient (dating back to 4000 BC) nar (Turkish for pomegranate) nectar that has us dropping Turkish lire all over the city.

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We are told that autum is prime season for the power packed fruit, but we have found the most vibrant, ruby red seeds are still exploding with the sweetest juice in early March.  Even the sweet, slightly tart cups we encounter have us singing the praises of this enchantress.

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It takes just moments for our juice barista to halve and squeeze two or three globes, place them in the sturdy manual juicer and extract the liquid ambrosia.

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Small servings set us back about .50 cents with larger cups ranging from a dollar to two depending on size and vendor location. At this price we indulge daily, taking advantage of the benefits of this Turkish delight.

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Celebrated for its high antioxidant content and inflammation reducing properties, we find it one of the most restorative beverages we’ve encountered. Ordering large glasses after long days exploring the vast treasures of Istanbul we feel instantly revitalized and up for more adventures.

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Fresh pomegranite kiosks and stands are located throughout Istanbul.  Every pedestrian and tourist area we have explored offers abundant opportunities to experience these glasses of pure refreshment. Don’t miss this charming tradition.

 

Frozen Popcorn Is An Inspired Idea.

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We love California for embracing all cultures, lifestyle choices and new ideas, especially in edible delights.

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We heard about California Mad Poppers, also known as California Frozen Poppers and were so intrigued we had to stop by. Inside we found an ice cream case housing bins of frozen popcorn. Yes, frozen, popped and flavored popcorn. The point is to keep the well loved snack as fresh as possible and freezing does just that. Who knew?  We were informed that after snacking we can slide the zip lock bag shut and toss it back in the freezer as many times as we like, keeping the popped corn as fresh as the day we purchased it.

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The attributes of this popcorn are impressive. First it’s air popped, then handmade daily, with zero preservatives, it’s gluten free and crafted with a 100 year old secret family caramel recipe.

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If all that doesn’t impress, then sampling some of their concoctions should do the trick. Generous in allowing customers to savor the flavors, we tasted the famous family recipe Caramel, rich Peanut Butter, Garlic Breath for serious garlic lovers, a variety of the cheese flavors and the Nutty Midnight Madness.

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First thing that hits is how fresh, crispy and delightful frozen popcorn is. Then their dedication to flavor intensity shines through. The best selling spicy popcorn called Aztec Gold, seduces with a quick snap of spice, before revealing its sweet carmel undertones and then sliding down the throat with a slow burn. This heavenly balance of sweet, salty and spicy is a flavor profile we adore and exactly what Aztec Gold delivers.

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They have a buy 3 get one bag free deal at the moment and a slew of special flavors for the season. We left with a big bag of Aztec Gold and a promise to ourselves to try more flavors and bring some to our next party so we can turn our friends on to the joys of frozen popcorn.

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What we first imagined was a novelty has us now convinced that this is the future of fresh popcorn. We are excited to experienced the next incarnation of one of the worlds favorite snack foods. Thank you Mad California Poppers for the brilliant fresh storage idea, your commitment to healthy, chemical free snacks and tantalizing flavors, you’ve got a winner.

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California Frozen Poppers, 7138 Shoup Avenue, Ste 1, Canoga Park, CA 91307
Phone – 818-888-4767           web site – camadpoppers.com